Scientists Discover The Gene Involved In Turning Hair Grey
For the first time, researchers have identified a gene that’s involved in hair turning grey. And only people with European ancestry carried it, which could explain why some people can keep their nature colour into old age, while the rest of us start seeing grey hairs before our 30th birthdays.
Scientists have long understood how our hair turns grey – as we age, we tend to stop producing as much of a pigment called melanin – but they haven’t been able to figure out why, or, more importantly, how to stop it. Understanding the gene involved in the process could change that, and could potentially lead to new treatments to avoid grey hair altogether.
“We already know several genes involved in balding and hair colour but this is the first time a gene for greying has been identified in humans, as well as other genes influencing hair shape and density,” said one of the researchers, Kaustubh Adhikari, from University College London.
The study looked at the genomes of more than 6,000 people in Latin America who came from a diverse range of backgrounds, including African, European, and Native American.
By scanning their DNA and comparing it to their appearance, researchers were able to identify 18 genes that appear to influence hair traits – including grey hair, beard thickness, whether hair is curly or straight, and even whether or not someone will develop a unibrow.
The gene found to be linked to grey hair is called IRF4, and it’s been shown in previous studies to be influence the production of melanin. But this is the first time anyone has been able to associate it with grey hair.